Dec. 10, 2010 at 2:50 PM ET
WikiLeaks not only has to fend off attacks from the outside, it also has dissension from within to grapple with, as former staffers have branched off to form their own whistleblower platform, Openleaks, expected to go live Monday.
The Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter published an account of the upcoming launch, using information from an unnamed source.
It quotes that source: "Our long term goal is to build a strong, transparent platform to support whistleblowers — both in terms of technology and politics — while at the same time encouraging others to start similar projects."
The main difference between the two sites will be the way information will be published to the public. Openleaks will allow whistleblowers to submit documents anonymously and will allow them to choose where the information goes, rather than be the source that publishes it. They'll be the messenger, the go-between. In theory, that will free Openleaks from the political firestorm currently consuming WikiLeaks. Not everyone is convinced it will have that effect.
Openleaks also wants to function more democratically: "As a short-term goal, this is about completing the technical infrastructure and ensuring that the organization continues to be democratically governed by all its members, rather than limited to one group or individual."
Traders in secret information can themselves sometimes get caught up in the intrigue of it all, and the in-fighting that led up to Openleaks is a clear indication of cracks in the WikiLeaks foundation, and perhaps some hypocrisy in not holding itself as accountable as it does the governments it exposes. WikiLeaks seems to be as punitive over supposed leaks within its own organization as much any entity that is the object of its exposure.
This schism is most apparent in an exchange between WikiLeaks detained founder/cyber martyr Julian Assange and the most prominent name in the new endeavor: former WikiLeaks' German spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg, aka Daniel Schmitt.
The two sparred late summer over Assange's investigation of a "serious security breach" of internal conflicts within WikiLeaks being published in Newsweek, while Domscheit-Berg tried to question him over details about WikiLeaks agreements with the media over the release of the Iraq War logs.
The instant message log between the two foreshadows the resignation of Domscheit-Berg and others who left WikiLeaks to create Openleaks.
Assange wrote to Domscheit-Berg: "A person in close contact with other WikiLeaks activists around Europe, who asked for anonymity when discussing a sensitive topic, says that many of them were privately concerned that Assange has continued to spread allegations of dirty tricks and hint at conspiracies against him without justification. Insiders say that some people affiliated with the website are already brainsorming (sic) whether there might be some way to persuade their front man to step aside, or failing that, even to oust him.”
Domscheit-Berg responded, "What does that have to do with me? And where is this from?"
Assange continued to question him. "Why do you think it has something to do with you?"
Domscheit-Berg retorted, "Probably because you alleg (sic) this was me, but other than that just about nothing. As discussed yesterday, this is an ongoing discussion that lots of people have voiced concern about. You should face this, rather than trying to shoot at the only person that even cares to be honest about it towards you."
No surprise, this doesn't end well.
"You are not anyone’s king or god," wrote Domscheit-Berg. “And you're not even fulfilling your role as a leader right now. A leader communicates and cultivates trust in himself. You are doing the exact opposite. You behave like some kind of emperor or slave trader."
And in the lingo of such an imperious force, Assange fired this at his willful employee: “You are suspended for one month, effective immediately."
Domscheit-Berg: "Haha. Right. Because of what? And who even says that? You? Another adhoc decision?"
Assange: "If you wish to appeal, you will be heard on Tuesday.”
He and other former WikiLeakers will be heard Monday, loud and clear, through Openleaks.